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Virginia Reckless Driving Penalties

Reckless Driving Is a Criminal Conviction

Most people do not realize until it is too late that all 14 types of reckless driving in Virginia are criminal charges, not traffic tickets. Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor, just like DUI, assault, possession of marijuana, and petty larceny. In Virginia, criminal convictions are never erased or expunged from a person’s record, they are permanent.

Like all Class 1 misdemeanors in Virginia, reckless driving can result in up to 12 months of jail time. However, a reckless driving conviction can have other far-reaching consequences.

Court Ordered License Suspension

The court may suspend a driver’s license for up to six months if the driver is convicted of reckless driving. This suspension takes effect immediately upon conviction. The bailiff will confiscate the license in the courtroom as soon as the judge issues the sentence. Failure to turn the license over to the deputy may lead to an indefinite extension of the suspension.

Driving after suspension is a serious crime and carries penalties of up to 12 months in jail, additional license suspension, and serious fines.

To learn more about license suspensions in Virginia and restricted license click here.

Fines and Fees

A driver convicted of reckless driving may have to pay as much as $2,500 in fines plus extra insurance premiums, $62 in court fees ($150 extra in Circuit Court), $225 in restricted license fees, and $175 in license reinstatement fees. ( These dollar amounts change frequently and the amount quoted in this website should be used as approximations only.)

Expensive Insurance Premiums

A single reckless driving conviction can dramatically increase your insurance rates for three to five years. It is very difficult to predict exactly what will happen to your insurance premium without talking to your insurance provider but generally, the lower the current premium and the better the driving record, the more damaging the effect of a reckless driving conviction. If you are insured by a preferred provider, the odds of a significant hike in the premium dramatically increases.

Criminal Record

Because reckless driving is a crime, it will be part of a driver’s permanent criminal record and cannot be expunged unless the charges are dismissed or dropped. A reckless driving conviction may prevent a law student from practicing law, disqualify a person for military service, jeopardize security clearance, and make finding a job harder. Reckless driving charges can blacklist a driver from many jobs that require employees to drive because of the extreme cost of insuring those people and because of the employer’s fear of being sued. Truck drivers, in-house nurse’s assistants, delivery men, and construction laborers may have a particularly hard time getting or keeping a job after a reckless driving conviction.

DMV License Suspension and Demerit Points

When Virginia drivers receive their license, they start with zero points on their driving record. Each year, they get +1 point on their driving record until they have a maximum of +5 points. A reckless driving conviction subtracts six points from a driver’s record, and will remain on record for 11 years (though the conviction will remain on one’s criminal record forever).

The DMV can suspend a driver’s license, require the driver to take a driver improvement class, or place the driver on probation for excessive demerit points. The DMV’s suspension is independent of the court’s suspension and cannot be altered by the court.

For minors, any demerit point conviction means the driver must attend a driver improvement class. Failure to do so within 90 days results in a license suspension until the program is completed. A second point conviction results in a 90-day license suspension. A third will result in a suspension for one year or until the offender reaches age 18, whichever is longer.

Consequences of Demerit Points in Virginia (Adult Drivers)
Within 12 months Within 24 months
8 points Letter from DMV Nothing
12 points Mandatory driver-improvement class Letter from DMV
18 points Mandatory 90-day license suspension + driver-improvement class + probation for six months Mandatory driver-improvement class
24 points Mandatory 90-day license suspension + driver-improvement class + probation for six months Mandatory 90-day license suspension + driver-improvement class + probation for six months

For adults, the accumulation of 8 demerit points in 12 months or 12 points in 24 months results in an advisory letter from the DMV. The accumulation of 12 demerit points within 12 months or 18 points in 24 months results in a mandatory driver-improvement class. The driver-improvement program must be completed within 90 days or the license will be suspended.

After the class is completed the driver will be placed on probation for 6 months and a control period for 18 months. If the driver gets another traffic ticket while on probation they lose their license. If the driver gets another traffic ticket while on a control period then they go back on probation for 6 months and then another 18 months of control period. It can be very difficult for some driver’s to get off probation and out of the control period.

The accumulation of 18 points in 12 months or 24 points in 24 months results in a mandatory 90-day license suspension. Once that period has expired, the offender must complete a driver-improvement class before his license can be restored. After restoration, the driver will be on probation for 6 months and a control period for 18 months

If the driver is convicted of a traffic offense while on DMV probation, his license will be suspended. The driver’s license will be suspended for 45 days for a three-point violation, 60 days for a four-point violation, and 90 days for a six-point violation. Once that individual finishes the suspension period, he will be placed on probation for an additional 6 months and a control period for 18 months.

Anyone charged with reckless driving or any traffic violation should get a copy of their DMV record and consult a local reckless driving attorney to see whether the DMV may restrict their privilege to drive.

Civil Liability

If your reckless driving case involves an accident or is related to a potential lawsuit, your criminal case could increase the likelihood of you being sued. If a criminal court judge finds that you were driving recklessly at the time of an accident then a civil court judge hearing a law suit against you may possibly rely on the decision of the criminal judge in determining whether or not you were reckless. If you are found guilty of driving recklessly as part of an accident, suing you may become much cheaper, easier, and less risky for the other party.

Some people think that because the insurance “took care of it” or because the other driver was pleasant and understanding they are in no danger of a law suit. However, the truth is that the insurance companies are the ones who are most likely to make the decision of whether to sue or not. And one factor that may affect their decision is whether a criminal court judge has already found you guilty of any traffic offenses, including reckless driving.

If there is any possibility of a law suit, contact a reckless driving attorney immediately.

Probation Violation

Because reckless driving is a criminal charge, getting convicted of reckless driving may violate the terms of your probation. The problem is that many people who are on probation in Virginia do not know it.

There are two types of probation in Virginia. “Active Probation”, which is when a convict has a probation officer and has to regularly “check in”. There is also “Inactive Probation”, also known as “Good Behavior”, where the convict has no probation officer and simply must not break the law during the probation period.

If a driver who is on active or inactive probation gets convicted of reckless driving, then that driver’s probation officer (or the court, in the case of inactive probation) may decide to declare that driver in violation of his probation. The driver may then be sent to jail or forced to pay fines in addition to the punishment received for the reckless driving conviction. The jail sentences for violating probation in Virginia are notoriously harsh.

The problem with Inactive Probation is that many people do not realize they are on inactive probation. When a person in Virginia is convicted of a misdemeanor the court will frequently “suspend” some of the jail time conditional upon “Good Behavior”. Suspended jail time or a suspended fine is a sure sign that an individual was given at least some period of probation. If you have been convicted of even a minor crime and have any concerns about whether you are on probation, contact a reckless driving attorney immediately.

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